Saturday Dinner: Pork Chile Verde Stew

Hey, sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I’d never know ’cause I wouldn’t eat the filthy motherf–ker. Pigs sleep and root in shit. That’s a filthy animal. I ain’t eat nothin’ that ain’t got sense enough to disregard its own feces.

— Samuel L. Jackson as Jules, Pulp Fiction (1994)

Think about the pig for a second. Jules is right. Pigs are damn filthy. But so are most farm animals. The eggs he eats are laid by chickens (doubtfully free range) that like in squalor. Jules bit down on that Big Kahuna burger, which came from commodity cows raised in lousy conditions specifically for slaughter. This is not intended to be a statement about the treatment of animals or the conditions in which they live. It’s not supposed to be a critical look at Jules’ argument. My point is simple: all animals are filthy, and many of them taste good.

And the pig is one of those delicious, delicious animals.

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I think I have a proud record of porknography around here, extolling the virtue of pork tenderloins, loin roasts, bellies and shoulders. The latter comes into play for this recipe and to facilitate its making, I picked up a 6.5 lbs. bone-in shoulder at Wegmans and did my own butchering, which is to say that I gashed my left index finger while removing the blade from this beast. I divided the batch into thirds, froze two portions and took the reminder to the stovetop.

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One of the great parts about cooking is how the flavors marry and deepen during the cooking process. Roasting and broiling the green ingredients changed the flavors of those ingredients before they went in with the seared pork for their long, slow braising. Giving everything time to work together and reduce produces nothing short of amazing flavor from some rather basic Mexican- and Southwestern-inspired ingredients.

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WHAT WORKED: What kind of peppers do you like? Me? I really like poblanos, so I bought a bunch of those. I couldn’t find cubanelles, so I grabbed some Anaheims instead. I tossed in a jalepeño for good measure. Mix up the blend of green to greenish peppers as you like them. As long as you broil them first to get rid of the skins and remove the seeds, this dish is highly adaptable to your likes.

WHAT DIDN’T: I was afraid that the jalepeño and Anaheim peppers would drive The Wife away. They didn’t. And even if they did, I had plenty of sour cream.

EASE OF PREPARATION: Medium, if only because you really need to wash your hands after working with the peppers. I thought I gave them a thorough scrubbing. About an hour later, I rubbed my eye and realized that was not the case.

BEST FOR: A weekend dinner when peppers are in season and you want something with a little kick.

SERVE WITH: A crisp pale ale, plenty of crumbled cotija cheese and sour cream, and tortilla chips.

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Pork Chile Verde Stew
Loosely based on the original from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats

  • 2 lbs. pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1/2- to 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 to 10 poblano peppers
  • 4 to 6 Anaheim or cubanelle peppers
  • 15 to 18 tomatillos, husked and halved
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 to 2 jalepeño peppers, sliced lengthwise and seeds discarded
  • 3 to 5 tbsp. canola oil, divided
  • 2 cups cilantro leaves, stems removed
  • large onion, diced
  • 12 oz. pale ale or IPA (JARED’S NOTE: All I had on hand was a Smuttynose Bouncy House IPA)
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 32 oz. low-sodium chicken broth
  • crumbled cotija cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips for serving

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Toss pork with 2 tbsp. of oil and a three-fingered pinch of salt. Set aside and let stand at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes.

Preheat your oven’s broiler or grill.

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Roast the poblano and Anaheim peppers under or over an open flame. If going to a grill surface, brush the peppers with oil. If using an oven, set the peppers on a lined baking sheet. Blister and blacken the exterior of the peppers, taking care not to totally burn the vegetables. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand 10 minutes to steam, then peel each peppers under cool tap water. Remove the stem and clean out the seeds by hand. Don’t rinse the inside of the pepper out, as you don’t want to lose the oils. Chop roughly and set aside.

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In the meantime, prepare your tomatillos, garlic and jalepeño(s) by tossing them with a tablespoon of oil and a two-finger pinch of salt. Transfer the mix to a separate lined baking sheet. When the poblanos are done, remove them and transfer the tomatillos to the oven. Broil for 10 to 15 minutes, turning once. Carefully transfer the veggies to the food processor, along with any accumulated liquid.

Turn off the broiler and preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Add half of the onion and all of the cilantro to the food processor and run on low for 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and pulse 10 times at 1-second intervals until combined well. Taste and adjust flavors with salt, if necessary.

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Add 2 tbsp. of oil to a Dutch oven over high heat. When it begins to smoke, add the pork, cooking in batches until all of the pork has a deep-brown hue. Slowly pour in the beer and use a heavy wooden spoon to scrape up any browned-on bits. Add the onions and cook until soft, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the cumin and cook 1 to 2 minutes, until the stew takes on the distinct smell of the spice.

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Gently pour in the salsa verde and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then transfer to your oven, leaving the pot partially uncovered with the lid. Braise for 3 hours.

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Remove from the oven. Prior to serving, skim off the top layer of fat then shred some (but not all) of the pork by transferring 1/3 of it to a mixing bowl and either shredding it with forks or using an immersion blender. Stir in the shredded pork with the rest of the stew and serve hot with tortilla chips, cotija cheese and/or sour cream.

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